Akhila Annadanam: Dancer At Heart Reaches the World Record Book

Akhila Annadanam: Dancer At Heart Reaches the World Record Book

Akhila Annadanam is a freshman at Morris Hills High School enrolled in the  Magnet Program for Math and Science who has taken up a very special extracurricular activity:  Kuchipudi, which is one of the several forms of dance that exist in the traditional Indian culture. This popular form of dance originated from a small village called Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh, India and has been bringing its audiences to their feet since the 13th century. Kuchipudi is singular in that it features the art of ‘tarangam’, in which a Kuchipudi dancer dances on a brass plate to the rhythm of the music. In India, many people even balance pots full of water on their heads as they dance.

This graceful practice, renowned for its difficulty, has been mastered by one of Morris Hills’s own: Akhila Annadanam. Akhila has been learning Kuchipudi since she was five years old. She originally started to learn Kuchipudi because of her parents, but, as she progressed, Akhila became more involved and emotionally attached to the dance. She said, “I really love learning dance. When I was younger, I always looked up to the older girls who danced advanced items after my class. They really inspired me to keep pursuing my passion.”

As an experienced dancer who has been training for years, Akhila can now consider herself equal to her early role models. In fact, Akhila has even gone far enough, to be able to perform for a Guinness World Record twice! The first Guinness event was in June 2008 in Cupertino, California and has been occurring biannually ever since. Around 300 to 400 Kuchipudi students participated, one of whom was Akhila. The second time Akhila performed for a Guinness event was in 2010. This time, it all happened in the Balayogi Stadium in Hyderabad, India where many more students participated: up to 3000 Kuchipudi dancers gathered together in the stadium to celebrate the dance that they have been in love with their whole lives.

“It felt truly amazing to dance with thousands of others that day in 2010,” Akhila said. She also added that she was so grateful to have had the opportunity to perform at such an event. The dancer can attribute her success to her teacher Swathi Gundapuneedi, who has been training her from the beginning. Gundapuneedi  runs the Siddhendra Kuchipudi Art Academy, where Akhila attends to practice Kuchipudi.

Though Akhila spends a lot of time perfecting the art of Kuchipudi, she also practices Indian Classical Carnatic Vocal Music, which she said helps her with dance because they are so closely connected. While she is passionate about music and dance, she said it was hard to find time for anything else. However, she said, she does enjoy playing sports for fun. She added that along with continuing her practice of Kuchipudi, she intends to pursue a career as a research scientist or a doctor. Akhila has also participated in charity events such as Vegesna Foundation and in various programs for Telugu organizations.

Akhila has achieved so much in the course of a few years, than most people would be able to achieve in a lifetime, especially in the dance category. Akhila is truly, a dancer at heart.